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Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)


Going Shallower with Artificials Wins North Dakota Championship For Ristow and Anderson


Swim baits and cranks, rather than the Devils Lake go-to setups of jigs, proved to be the way to the top of the podium for Matt Ristow of Bismarck, and partner John Anderson of Lincoln, North Dakota, who topped the board by less than a pound to take the 2017 AIM Weekend Walleye Series/Mercury Marine North Dakota Championship.

Using Northland Impulse Core 4.5-inch paddletail plastics and Berkley Flicker Minnows, and at first, spinners, the pair racked up an impressive 53.30 pounds over the two-day event Aug. 4-5 to earn $5,500, and a trip to next spring’s AIM National Championship Shootout, at a spot to be announced in 2018. It was an intense two days, as they won by less than a pound.

“Just on a slow retrieve on the swim baits and the crank baits. We’d work’em back and in shallow coontail coming up on the outside of main weed beds,” Ristow explained. “We’d get the cranks over them and give it a pause, and then pause right at the boat.”

The pair fished in Six Mile Bay, smack in the center of the lake. “When you leave Creek Bay by Woodland Resort (the event HQ), we were only about a 12-mile boat ride away. We were all alone. We had some locals in the area but no other tournament boats,” Ristow added.

“We caught a couple of smaller fish right away on spinners. Then as we made our first pass down one section of the weed line, we got around to where it met the deeper part of the bay and John picked up a 26-1/4. We worked up the shore towards the end of the point, where we picked up a 24 on one of the swim baits, and a 22, then it quieted down.

Working up another weed edge, Ristow put on an orange/chartreuse prop blade with a small split shot, with a slow death hook and half a crawler. Bang, a 27-1/4 to the boat. One ‘eye he estimated at 25 hit right at the boat, but got off. That fish just sat almost within touching distance after the hook popped out, he said, teasing them before swimming away.

After picking up a couple more, the pair figured they were at nearly 30 pounds for day one, and were happy.

“At about 1:30, we headed back to the flat and pulled in a 23 and a 25-1/4, and said, well we might as well head back now,” Ristow said. On Day Two, they stuck to the same program, he said, pulling little fish right away again on a spinner. “I hadn’t even gotten to cast yet when John pulled in a 22-3/4, and it started just the way Day One did. I got up and made a cast and got a 20-plus. But we couldn’t find the bigger fish.

Again, he went back to that same prop blade and immediately picked up a 21-1/2 and a 20-incher, but they still couldn’t get the big fish interested.

Back on shore, Ristow said they were feeling good, but knew also that the teams immediately below also had a good day. They just squeaked by Jacob and father Don Denning, from Fargo, ND, who came in with 52.54 pounds, good for second place, $2,500 and a berth at next year’s Shootout.

“I’m pretty ecstatic,” Jacob said, of qualifying for next spring. “At the awards, it was so close, but I’ll take this any day especially against this group of guys.

“Me and my dad go up to Devils about every weekend and we do most of the tournaments up there. We found the fish a couple weeks prior on a deep rock pile at the east end of the lake. The majority of the big fish are on the east,” he continued. And, that included the weeks and weekends prior to the championship in what they consider their home lake. They knew what they were going to do and where.

“On the first day we found a couple of deep rock piles. It was a community hole, but we wanted to start there. We started bobbering with leeches, and the Devils lake standby, Jigging Raps. They seemed to want the bobbers more. You want on this spot to be on the edge of the rocks. For some reason they were right on the edge, on the deeper end. That was probably the key for us. We’ve caught them up shallower but we were closer to 30 feet on this spot,” Denning said. The biggest one off there was 28 -1/4. We caught also 25s, 23s,  22s and 21s. They were all sizes.”

Day Two, he said, was slower. There wasn’t as much current, and a full moon Friday night affected the fish, along with local weekend fishing pressure, he continued.

“We caught only two better ones there so we had some casting spots and then really deep rocks to catch the big ones.

“The main pile for the big fish was in 33 feet. For whatever reason, they move onto the rocks and sometimes stay there, and sometimes they don’t,” Denning said. Lucky for them, they stayed.  The second day’s 23-plus pounds bumped them from third place on Day One, to second.

Taking over third place were Jeff Enzminger and Mike Peluso, Bismarck, who landed 50.94 pounds and $2,000. In fourth at 47.87 pounds were Jeff White, Bismarck, and Mitch Lang, Turtle Lake, ND, earning them $1,500. Rounding out the top five were Matthew Liebel, Williston, ND, and Tory Hill, Minot, ND. They boated 44.49 pounds for $1,000.

Watch for a preview of this weekend’s Wisconsin Division Championship here Thursday, and follow all the action on the water and at the end of the day Friday and Saturday at AIM’s Facebook Page, and at Prochattrr.

Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™) is a unique tournament organization created and owned by many of the most accomplished and recognizable professional walleye anglers, along with others who share the mission of advancing competitive walleye fishing and making it sustainable into the future. AIM is committed to marketing excellence on behalf of its tournament competitors, the tournament host communities, and the brands that partner with it. AIM is also committed to maintaining healthy fisheries across the nation by the development of the exclusive AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format, which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. For more information about AIM™, AIM Pro Walleye Series™, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit

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